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The Psychedelic Furs
The Psychedelic Furs performing live in 2008
|Origin||London, England, United Kingdom|
|Years active||1977–1992, 2000–present|
The Psychedelic Furs are an English rock band founded in London in February 1977. Led by singer Richard Butler and his brother Tim Butler on bass guitar, the Psychedelic Furs were one of the many acts spawned from the British post-punk scene. Their music went through several phases, from an initially austere art rock sound, to later touching on new wave and hard rock.
The band scored several hits in their early career. In 1986, filmmaker John Hughes used their song "Pretty in Pink" for his movie of the same name. The band went on hiatus after they finished touring in 1992, but later regrouped in 2000 and continue to perform around the world; despite this, they have not released a full-length studio album since 1991's World Outside.
Richard Butler stated that the Psychedelic Furs began rehearsing in his family's front room, but were soon banished because of the noise. They became prominent in England's emerging punk scene in 1977, where they auditioned for Essex Kennedy's record label, Manufactory Wave Punk. Kennedy signed the band, hoping to cash in on the punk scene that was sweeping the UK and believing that a more produced studio sound would appeal to a larger market. The band was initially called RKO, then Radio. They vacillated between calling themselves "the Europeans" and "the Psychedelic Furs", playing gigs under both names before permanently settling on the latter.
The band initially consisted of Richard Butler (vocals), Tim Butler (bass guitar), Duncan Kilburn (saxophone), Paul Wilson (drums) and Roger Morris (guitars). By 1979, this line-up had expanded to a sextet with Vince Ely replacing Wilson on drums and John Ashton joining as a second guitarist. The Psychedelic Furs' debut, a self-titled album released in March 1980, was produced by Steve Lillywhite. The album quickly established the band on radio in Europe and was a No. 18 hit in the UK Albums Chart. The album also found success in Germany, Italy, France, Spain and Australia. The US version of the album was re-sequenced, but failed to have a strong commercial impact.
The Furs did find success in the US with their next release, 1981's Talk Talk Talk, which saw the band making its debut on the US Billboard 200 chart. In the UK, the album yielded two charting singles, "Dumb Waiters" and the original version of "Pretty in Pink". The latter song served as inspiration for the 1986 John Hughes film of the same name, and was re-recorded for the platinum-selling soundtrack - though Richard Butler was later adamant that the cinematic interpretation had very little to do with the song's original intent.
In 1982, the band was reduced to a quartet with the departures of Morris and Kilburn, and moved to the U.S. in search of a producer. The band recorded their next album, Forever Now, with record producer Todd Rundgren in Woodstock, New York. Released in September 1982, this album contained "Love My Way", which became another UK chart entry, and also their first US Billboard Hot 100 single.
Ely left the band after Forever Now (though he would later return in 1988). Phill Calvert played drums on their subsequent tour, but left before the recording of the Furs' 1984 release Mirror Moves. Mirror Moves was produced by Keith Forsey (who also programmed the drums and became the band's drummer), and featured the songs "The Ghost in You" and "Heaven". Both charted in the UK, and "Heaven" became the band's highest charting UK hit at the time, peaking at No. 29. Columbia Records opted for "Here Come Cowboys" for the corresponding US release, which failed to chart, but "The Ghost In You" was a hit on the Billboard Hot 100. In Canada, "The Ghost In You" also charted. Mirror Moves became a Top 20 album on the Canadian Albums Chart and was named the No. 1 album of 1984 by Toronto new wave radio station CFNY.
By the mid-1980s, the band had become a staple on both US college radio and modern rock radio stations. Simultaneously, they were experiencing consistent mainstream success, placing several singles in the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. Still, according to biographer Dave Thompson, they would "have more impact on future musicians than they ever did in the marketplace."
In 1986, the band recorded a new version of "Pretty in Pink" for the soundtrack of the film of the same name. Released as a single, it became their biggest hit to date in the US, and their biggest UK hit. Butler later claimed that the success of "Pretty in Pink" caused the band to be pressured into entering the recording studio with producer Chris Kimsey to record a follow-up release before they were ready. The result was Midnight to Midnight, their biggest Top 40 success to date, but an album that Richard Butler later characterized as "hollow, vapid and weak". A more overtly commercial effort than their prior recordings, the album also featured the single "Heartbreak Beat", the Furs' biggest Top 40 hit in the US. The album also featured drummer Paul Garisto and saxophonist Mars Williams, both of whom toured with the band.
In the wake of Midnight to Midnight, Ely returned, and the Furs issued the single "All That Money Wants", a track recorded for the 1988 best-of compilation album All of This and Nothing. 1989's Book of Days, produced by the band and David M. Allen, featured the singles "Should God Forget" and "House". Produced by the band and Stephen Street, 1991's World Outside included the single "Until She Comes" and is the Furs' final studio album to date. From 1988 on, the Furs' singles had steady chart success with three No. 1 hits on the newly established US Modern Rock Tracks chart between 1988 and 1991. "All That Money Wants" was a No. 1 hit in 1988, while "House" topped the chart in 1990 and "Until She Comes" was No. 1 in 1991.
The band took a long break in the early 1990s, with Richard and Tim Butler going on to found Love Spit Love with Richard Fortus and Frank Ferrer (both of whom would later join Guns N' Roses). In 2000, Richard Butler, Tim Butler and Ashton reformed the Psychedelic Furs. The touring lineup also included Fortus and later, Ferrer. They released a live album, Beautiful Chaos: Greatest Hits Live , which included a new studio recording, "Alive (For Once in My Lifetime)". A DVD of the performance included live versions of "Alive" and three other previously unreleased songs: "Anodyne (Better Days)", "Cigarette" and "Wrong Train".
In 2006, Richard Butler released a solo album, Richard Butler. Since reforming in 2001, the band continued to tour worldwide. The current Psychedelic Furs touring line-up includes Richard Butler, Tim Butler, Garisto, Williams, Amanda Kramer and Rich Good.
In 2017, the band's 1984 single "The Ghost in You" was featured in the second season of Netflix hit series Stranger Things, and was included on the Sony Music soundtrack companion to the season, Stranger Things: Music from the Netflix Original Series, released in October 2017. That same year, the band's 1982 single "Love My Way" was played several times in the Oscar-nominated film Call Me By Your Name.
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